Late last summer I saw that some of my friends were in a group called 213 FB Hikers. I read their page and asked to join. The page said they hiked every Tuesday night and Saturday mornings in Griffith Park. The first night I went happened to be a full moon. It was also my first time hiking in the north side of the park and at night. It was beautiful. The moon lit up everything. We were about 30 people ranging from late 20s to about early 40s in a single file line. We started up a small dirt path. About 200 yards from the parking lot where we had started, I looked to the side of the small dirt path we were on, and there standing in all its glory in the moonlight was 6 foot tall deer. I was hooked.
Since that first hike in late summer I have gone almost every Tuesday night. I went to one or two Saturday hikes, but I much prefer the night hikes. The first time I went it was a little tough. I had been going to the gym, but hiking works out other muscles, your balance and brain (especially at night) in ways you can't get at the gym. I didn't know how to breathe and my calves were burning from scaling a hillside. With people in front of me, that I didn't want to let get too far ahead of me, and people behind me that I didn't want to slow down, I had to keep up with the pace, so it was tough.
The leaders of the group encourage everyone to push themselves to their limit, to work it! They encourage us to try to move up in the group: if you are in the back, get to the middle; if you are in the middle get to the front, and most importantly, "we leave no one behind." The encouragement, kindness and patience given by the leaders of this group to people that are really having a hard time is another huge plus of this group. They keep a good steady pace, but if someone falls behind, because they are having a hard time, there is always someone in the very back with a walkie talkie communicating with the front lead to slow down or to wait up. I've seen a couple of people get picked up by their elbows and helped up some exceptionally hard parts for them. Thankfully I was not in that bad shape when I began. By the fourth week I was up in the front and loving it.
Every week it gets a little easier and you get to take in more of the beauty of the park at night. The creatures all make appearances or sounds like the hoots of the owls, the coyote debates, the bats sonic beeps, the misunderstood potato bugs, the super cool rabbits and I heard about, but haven't seen any hairy, tarantulas. They should be out by the summer. I'm looking forward to catching the city lights come on around dusk.
I have found a peace in these hikes and from the benefits of knowing the trails and gaining the ability to go through them with relative ease. The physical ease allows my mind to function on other levels. The Tuesday before my father passed I had to hike. I missed the week before because I was at the hospital with him. All week I had been there and that day was the last day he was most conscience. My body was racked with stress, my mind filled to its brim, my heart in pain, I needed to work my body. Pump my blood by breathing, pushing and pulling my self up those darkened paths.
I was quiet. At this point no one knew my dad was in the hospital except for very close family. I flew up the paths like they were nothing. My body loved the challenge, and I stepped up to it. I pictured in my mind the 'strands of light' that Casteneda wrote about, pulling me up. My eyes in harmony with my legs, helped my feet land on the perfect spot(s) to launch from. At some points it felt like I was gliding up by pure will and thought.
When I made it to the top, I knew my dad was with me. He had brought me up there as kid by scaling the south side of that same hill. The same hill I would climb up after Philosophy class at LACC to read my books and watch the largess of my city. Standing there that Tuesday night, I knew I would be ok. I knew my dad was going to be ok. All is as it should be. All is as it could be. All is as it will be.
213 FB Hikers rock! I've met some very nice people and each week new hikers join. Some return and some don't, but they all learn where they are hiking wise and usually it encourages them to get into better shape so that their next hike won't be so hard. Others get hooked and join other hiking groups. Those folks say 213 are the funnest and most challenging compared to other groups. For now I'm happy with the Tuesday night hikes.
(most photos courtesy and copyright David Negrete, all rights reserved)